Salt marshes. Tides. Lighthouses. Kettle ponds. Crabs. Lots of them, large and small; the Horseshoes, giant and prehistoric, the Fiddlers, with their one giantly oversized claw, hurrying scurrying into their tiny little holes when human-folk show up. Oysters. Striped sea bass. The bay and the sea. Short trees. Voles and mice and chipmunks and bunnies. Whales! Seals! Sand! Lots of sand.
These are strange and wonderful things! These are things that are not on the front doorstep if you are at the end of my home valley in Oregon, land of very tall trees and mossy-ferny things. But! They are a dime a dozen out yonder on Cape Cod! Indeed they are.
And that, friends, is where I have been. Neglecting my shop, forgetting my daily habits, and instead standing on the beach with an easel and brush, covered in sunscreen and tick repellant, and happy as, well, a clam. And learning oh oh so very very very much about art and light and nature and creatures of all sorts. Including artists, fascinating and wonderful creatures indeed.
My purpose was to build my skills, and get inspiration from a new landscape. My formal education on the Cape was taken Truro Center for the Arts at Castle Hill. For five consecutive weeks I studied with a string of lovely teachers and artists: Nancy McCarthy helped me hone my color knowledge with nature as a lens; Lisbeth Firmin taught us her method of abstraction and color and vibrating edges and many other things, with Provincetown as our focus; Larry Horowitz showed us beach charcoal and orange flickering backgrounds and dramatic skies; Hannah Niswonger held a class full of fantastic lessons in the art of good teaching, and art process (including the "swamp method" for mixing plaster - a most important skill), and how to make soul-satisfying ceramic animals; and from Suzanne Siegel, a robustly fortified toolbox of watercolor tricks and ever-so-useful tidbits.
I did not go in to this adventure with the idea that I will become a landscape painter or a ceramicist (though my opinion on this may have changed after the fact... I had a great deal of fun with both!), but instead to take a heap of classes that would help me experiment with my art in a more oblique way. I aimed to learn more about color and composition and abstraction and rendering light with truth, and just learning how to handle a brush more deftly. I took the ceramics class largely because I fell in love with the goat sculpture used to plug the class in the catalog, but reasoned that it would be a bit like studying a building in a 3-d model in order to understand it better, as one does in the land of architecture from which I hail. And so it was! And much, much more: the medium is not my usual, but it is still all about form and shadow and mark-making, and creating creatures of character, and not overthinking what you are doing.
My informal education was taken every afternoon after class, in the marshes and on the shore, in the galleries and museums, the ice-creameries and the boulangerie, on the docks, at the produce stands, and under the dramatic light of this place's very special sky.
More on these things soon, I hope, for there was much learned that might interest you. Like the very long history of arty folks on the Cape... Edward Hopper, and the Provincetown art colony, and other such things. For now, I will leave you with these few snaps of the work I did and the places I went!
P.S.: The shop is back open!
HERE & THERE
Melinda Nettles, proprietor of LEAN2creativeworks, an independent art and illustration studio located in the Cape Cod town of Eastham, Massachusetts.